As the Olympic break comes to an end, the Winnipeg Jets shift their focus from the celebration of Canada’s Gold Medal victories in the Men and Women’s finals, towards the Jets quest to make an appearance in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Jets sit two points out of a wild card spot and the team is enjoying substantial success under the guidance of new head coach Paul Maurice. Maurice has given the Jets a spark and the team has been energized. In their last ten games, they have a 6-3-1 record. It seems as though Paul Maurice is a saviour for this team, which begs the question, is Paul Maurice the real deal?
On February 12, Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel was fired by the Club and replaced by Paul Maurice. In Maurice’s opening press conference he admitted there wasn’t much meat on the bone with this team. Maurice had taken over the team in the midst of the teams five game loosing streak.
It was assumed the season was lost. The next few months seemed to be more of an evaluation period and fans would have to look forward to the Draft or the off-season for some excitement with the club. Suddenly, the team started winning. But nobody took this team seriously. To describe it best, it was too little and way too late.
The thought of this team putting together wins in a short period of time was a distant thought; this team struggled to win back-to-back games.
Paul Maurice entered with a bang; the team was energized and put together a four game winning streak. But then again, playoffs were out of the picture. In a sense, fans just enjoyed watching wins.
As the wins continued for the Jets, the wild card race in the Western Conference became relevant for the Jets. As I write this article, the playoffs aren’t a distant thought for Jets fans and it seems as though it’s a very realistic possibility.
Does this immediate turn around under Paul Maurice favor the skills of Maurice, or Claude Noel’s inability to get this team to win?
During Claude Noel’s 177 game tenure as the Winnipeg Jets head coach, the team had been mediocre for most of his two and a half seasons. To defend Noel, Kevin Cheveldayoff did not assemble a roster that had a shot at being competitive. Then again, the Jets came close to making the playoffs due to the fact they were in the Southeast division, which consisted of teams that were in the basement of the overall league standings who still had a shot at the playoffs throughout the season.
This season, the Jets got a wake up call once they entered the Central Division.
They were playing with the big boys now and they needed to play like big boys. The Jets couldn’t find success and as a result Noel was fired.
Noel left the team the same way it was when he joined the team. There was no growth in production nor was there much of a decline in production either.
Paul Maurice enters the picture and suddenly there is a new life to this team. In Maurice’s first ten games the team has a 8-2 record. This kind of immediate success for the Jets is something to give credit Paul Maurice.
But, what does this say about Claude Noel as a coach?
It doesn’t seem to say anything positive, that’s for sure. The truth is, as Noel’s time in Winnipeg started to wind down, he seemed as though he had lost the room. Technically it was an evaluation and you couldn’t tell by the players’ efforts because none of the players were playing like they wanted to stay on the team.
The Jets players got a serious wakeup call once Paul Maurice walked in; this guy knew what he was doing. Maurice has over 1,000 NHL coached games under his belt and his presence demanded respect from the players.
To answer the question, yes I do think Maurice is the real deal. Yes its only been 11 games of him being the Head Coach of the Winnipeg Jets, but the statement that he has made goes way beyond the teams record.
If you were to compare Maurice and Noels teaching styles, it would be hard to do because a lot of that goes on behind the scenes. But the way Maurice interacts during the game with his players is very admirable. He seems to preach to the players the way he wants the team to play and finds the formula to make his players execute.
You rarely saw Noel speak a word to his players; he usually stayed on the bench with no emotion.
Players look like they want to play here and are trying to earn their spot since Maurice’s arrival. Noel never got the players to play to a system in his two and a half years as coach. In ten games Maurice might have no implemented a system, but he’s got all the players to work and display a substantial effort.
Now, the best way to impress would be a berth in to the playoffs for the Jets.
If that is accomplished, will Paul Maurice be in the running for the Jack Adams Award?
Become an MVP with Winnipeg Whiteout and never miss a thing.